250,000 prisoners mentally-ill! Justice Department , Report Confirms , Criminalization (fwd)

rosaphil (rugosa@interport.net)
Tue, 13 Jul 1999 05:30:22 -0400 (EDT)

anyone wanna do anything about this?

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Date: Mon, 12 Jul 1999 15:52:42 -0400
From: chris@nami.org
Subject: NAMI E-News    Justice Department Report Confirms Criminalization 

NAMI E-News                July 12, 1999              Vol. 00-5

Monday, July 12, 1999			                         	

Lack of Treatment Cited As Cause of Criminalization Of Mental Illness;
Executive Actions Also Proposed

Arlington, VA – The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill today called for 
Congressional hearings and executive action in response to the release of a 
special report by the U.S. Department of Justice that estimates that over a 
quarter of a million inmates in America’s prisons and jails suffer from mental 

"The Justice Department report confirms what we have known for years," said 
NAMI’s Executive Director, Laurie Flynn. "Prisons and jails have become the 
mental hospitals of the 1990’s. What the report doesn’t show are the root causes 
of the problem---the failure of America’s mental health system to provide 
adequate treatment. The criminalization of persons with mental illnesses is the 
result of a broader system in crisis."

"The Justice Department study will be little more than a waste of the taxpayer’s 
money unless it becomes a foundation for action." Flynn said. "NAMI calls on 
Attorney General Janet Reno and Congressional leaders to take the following  
immediate actions:

· Target funds to provide grants to states and localities for the establishment 
of "mental health courts" to divert nonviolent offenders with mental disorders 
from incarceration into treatment.

· Utilize funds from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program to 
finance crisis intervention team (CIT) initiatives, which have proven effective 
in facilitating access to treatment for low-level offenders with mental 
illnesses and reducing criminalization.

· Amend federal law to allow states receiving prison funds under the Violent 
Offender and Truth-in-Sentencing grant program to use them to develop improved 
screening and treatment systems for inmates with mental illnesses in state 

· Hold hearings on the root causes of the criminalization of persons with mental 
illnesses and identify further steps to reverse the trend; including the 
strengthening of outpatient treatment programs upon release.

"Each reform reflects a reality that is within our grasp," Flynn said. "All we 
need is the will to act. Ultimately, Congress must help to provide the 
leadership necessary to meet the challenge."

In 1992, NAMI published its own study, "Criminalizing the Seriously Mentally 
Ill: The Abuse of Jails As Mental Hospitals," which found:

· The vast majority of individuals with mental illnesses who are arrested are 
charged with trivial misdemeanors that are often manifestations of the illness. 
Persons charged with more serious crimes usually have illnesses that have gone 

· Police in 84% of the nation’s jails receive either no training or fewer than 
three hours training on the problems of persons with mental illness.

· Psychiatric care in jails varies widely; more than 20 percent provide no 
access to psychiatric resources.

· Less than 50 percent of jails do not know whether seriously mentally ill 
inmates receive any outpatient psychiatric care once they are released. Those 
that do know report that only 36 percent receive follow-treatment.

"Nothing has gotten much better since then," Flynn observed. "America shouldn’t 
have to wait another seven years for the Federal government to act."

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